Mrs Brown’s Boys – How Does A Programme Like This Get Commissioned?

Comedy can be a very personal thing.
You find Big Momma’s House funny. I disassociate myself from you completely.
But there are degrees. I find Catherine Tate personable, but her show was full of overlong sketches that were the same joke week in week out. Little Brtiain became very lazy, again suffering from the same jokes on a repeat basis. Benidorm does well for ITV, but it passes me by.
But they pale into insignificance compared with the programme I’ve just seen on BBC1.
Mrs Brown’s Boys is a sitcom seemingly co-produced by the BBC and RTÉ, starring Brendan O’Carroll and set in Ireland. The Mrs Brown character – essentially a drag act – is something that O’Carroll has had for years in a number of shows and tours. As far as I can tell, this is the first televised incarnation of the character. Although one can only summise that the character has something of a following.
Like one of Tate’s character, Mrs Brown, the character that O’Carroll plays, is predicated on a single thing: it’s “hilarious” that an old lady swears like a sailor. Swearing can be funny – look no further than Father Jack or the very clever swearing in The Thick of It – but unless you’re smart it’s just wearing. And it ceases to be funny very very quickly. And there’s more swearing in this than an average episode of The Sopranos.
But that’s not the main problem. The show just isn’t funny at all. I didn’t laugh once. Even smirk.
Indeed from the outset, I couldn’t understand why the laugh track was so pumped up. There’s a live audience there for sure – we see them on a couple of occassions when the fourth wall is broken. Indeed the cast take a bow at the end. But despite that, it feels as though it’s been added with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.
I simply don’t understand how this programme could make it to air. The plot is perfunctory. The “gags” come into view a mile off. As soon as the tazer comes out, we know what’s going to happen.
Just in case I haven’t been clear. This programme is unutterably bad. It make Bonekickers seem like I, Claudius; Triangle seem like Jewel in the Crown; El Dorado seem like Edge of Darkness. Abysmal.
Now I should say that according to Wikipedia, the programme was immensely popular in Ireland where it aired a few weeks ago. And tastes can differ regionally. Maybe it’s something to do with the whole country being in a mess following the financial crisis. Some kind of collective effect on their brains.
I don’t get it. And I’m sure that few will. The humour is of the level of Roy Chubby Brown or Jim Davidson – minus any overt racism. And minus any overt humour.
You think My Family or Two Pints of Lager are unfunny sitcoms? Think again. You’ve not seen this. They seem like Fawlty Towers by comparison.
I could go on. But I’m too busy wondering how this came to air. I know that the BBC is looking to move outside London, and that’s to be welcomed. And there’s nothing stopping BBC Northern Ireland producing sitcoms (although I’m not sure that they can be blamed for this – there wasn’t an obvious sign of it in the credits). But someone somewhere should be getting a cardboard box and handing in their notice tomorrow in shame.
[UPDATE: Note that I’ve closed this entry for comments after one especially unpleasant comment was published (I’ve since removed it). There are obviously very different opinions on this programme, and I’ve made mine clear. However, while reasoned debate is fine, I won’t accept comments that are hateful. And because this blog seems to index highly on search engines generating lots of views, I’m getting a broader readership than I ordinarily would. So I’ve had to take this step.]


  1. Say what you like about MBB, but you diss Bonekickers at your peril. I must send you my Bonekickers script some time.

  2. And yet Limmy’s Show and Burnistoun, two really fresh reeeeegional comedies remain unshown outside Scotland. Well, arguably more worthy of wider support than this sounds.

  3. Spot on. Abysmal. It’s even worse than the ‘sitcom’ that Gervais has on Extras, and at least that was meant to be bad.

  4. if its as awful as your making out then WHY is the brittish public loving it??? every website you go on and every comment has been about how funny the show is and cheered everyone on up on a myserable monday night.. the only people who disliked this show are reporters with absolute no sense of humor obviously.. please DO NOT read this review and watch the show before making ready made assumptions

  5. Clearly not “every website” loves it Dani.
    This one loathes it with a passion.
    A couple of others:
    Mrs Brown’s Boys was just jaw droppingly past its sell-by date. Metro
    It’s just not funny. The Irish Times
    I have a perfectly good sense of humour thanks. Perhaps people who didn’t find this funny, were those who didn’t appreciate crude stereotypical jokes that reminds you of the very worst of seventies sitcoms.
    I’m all for trying new comedy. But this doesn’t deserve a 1am slot on BBC Three it’s that bad.

  6. STOP taking it all too seriously that’s the point. We shouldn’t take life and ourselves too seriously. This is brilliant comedy.
    Light hearted with a good Irish accent full of character to die for. You haven’t lived if you don’t find this funny. Stuck up policitically correct do gooding boring and get a life sad middle class phonies. CULTURAL VOID springs to mind appreciate it for what it is. FUNNY

  7. Sharon, your comments enraged me so much that I have thrown out all my food and clothes and shaved off all my hair. That is how misguided you are.

  8. It was hilarious. The funniest thing I’ve seen in absolutely ages. I’m just sorry I missed it last week!
    The problem for you maybe that you simply daren’t admit it, not even to yourself.
    Yes old fashioned. But it NEEDS to be old fashioned to be so funny. “New comedy” isn’t very funny at all I’m afraid, and what human beings find funny doesn’t really change all that much.
    Don’t be so prententous! It’s strange how most commentators in online blogs, and newspapers etc. have derided this, whilst most respondents have been honest and praised it.

  9. “Old fashioned”? Nope. I love Dad’s Army, The Likely Lads, Fawlty Towers, Hancock, Only Fools and Allo Allo even, as much as the next person.
    But this is drivel of the lowest order. It’s not witty. It’s not clever. There is no sophistication.
    I’m not led by what others said or are saying about this. I simply watched the first episode, knowing nothing about it, and was just shocked how appalling it was.
    To put this in perspective, I’ve watched the odd episode of programmes like My Family or Benidorm. They don’t make me laugh, but I have no doubt that they find their audience.
    As I said at the very top of my piece, comedy is very subjective. Some people do find the “Big Momma” series of films funny. That can be the only reason they keep getting released. It doesn’t make them any good.
    When I see good comedies getting cancelled – e.g. Pulling – but bad ones like this getting spots on BBC One, I do despair.
    You may have your views. But this is my blog and these are mine (for some reason Google juice is delivering lots of people who I take it don’t regularly read in these parts).

  10. I found “Dad’s Army” to be quite mundane humour. Never a big fan. Likely lads, ok I guess not belly bustingly funny. Hancock’s half hour – I’m too young to remember it really. Steptoe and Son – well, frankly brilliant and sadly missed. Till Death Us Do Part, and In Sickness and In Health, masterly. Monty Phython – wonderful. There again I liked Les Dawson, and Dick Emery and think we need more like them.
    Adam yes, you are entiled to your view, and yes this is your blog. So I will just take issue with one single point – The BBC SHOULD have broadcast Mrs Brown, because MANY people actually *do* like it. Check round the web if you don’t believe me. The BBC should not cater to your taste and opinion alone. After all you aren’t the ONLY person who pays their television licence fee are you ? I’ve paid mine for years and years since I left my parents home, and I for one, am glad they broadcast this. It cheered me up no end. I’d be happy not to pay the fee, for you to fund them completely and for you to have on there whatever you wish, provided I could watch all the other channels which do not need mandatory subscription.
    Oh, and I don’t care much for the Big Momma films either. But I also thought “Pulling” was complete rubbish as well. It did nothing for me at all and I wasn’t surprised when it got canned.
    My favourite all time comedy film character ? Peter Seller’s version of Inspector Clouseau.

  11. A blatant copy of a much earlier sit-com (American I think ) from the 70,s/80,s or even a poor attempt to re-invent “Bread”. All in all pathetic and certainly not worth the exorbitant license fee we are expected to pay for this drivel.

  12. There are so many brilliant ccomedians, so much sparkling writing talent, so many undiscovered scripts…
    And yet THIS gets commissioned and 3 million labotomy patients watch it.
    This comedy is so bad, I’m sorely tempted to emigrate. It’s not that it’s old-fashioned or ‘un-PC’ or low-brow. These are all things I am perfectly at home with.
    It’s the fact that the gags are so old, they’ve been copied off the Rosetta stone. The delivery is cringingly terrible. People call the Office ’embarrasment humour’, but at least on that genius show, it was intended.
    People might say ‘If you don’t like it, don’t watch it’. But it’s my license fee paying for this bilge and it’s my wish that something far more deserving fills this slot. If you think this is funny, you have total contempt for comedy as a genre.
    I don’t like dealing in absolutes, but this show just makes me want to cry for humanity.

  13. I live in Australia (from Liverpool) and I had never heard of this programme until somebody gave me a DVD of it tonight thinking I would love it. I initially thought it was a joke as in Ricky Gervais sitcom within a sitcom and sat patiently waiting for the joke to reveal itself. What a shock when the credits rolled up and I realised that the joke was on me! This is so appallingly bad I can’t quite believe that it has made it to tv in the 21st century. I think the Trade Descriptions Act should be enforced here the BBC are selling this as a “comedy” when it is patently the unfunniest programme I have ever seen!

  14. Was I enjoying this show while I was watching it?
    The answer was ‘Yes and so were the others who watched it with me.
    How do I know?
    Because, we were ALL laughing outloud.
    Being a critic doesn’t mean acknowledging and analyzing every detail. The show left me feeling happier than I was, before I had started to watch it.
    To misquote Abraham Lincoln :
    You can make all the people laugh some of the time; you can even make some of the people laugh all the time; but you cant make all of the people laugh all the time.
    Variety makes the world a great place to be a live in, enjoy what makes us happy and lets not kick the cr@p out of or deride what makes others happy.
    ho ho ho…

  15. I find it funny that you explain Ireland’s sense of humour with its financial difficulties. Is that suppose to be witty? Because if thats the case then it explains your poor judgment in humour..

  16. Obviously I was being flippant and you know that (although I do believe that humour is an adjunct to the general well-being of a country. There’s probably a study to be done of 1970s sitcoms in light of the three-day week and general industrial malaise).
    Clearly it’s nothing to do with the serious nature of that. But nonetheless, it does show that our senses of humour are separated by more than the Irish Sea might suggest.
    (Interesting to sea that Google still seems to bring this site to the top of lists months after I wrote this piece.)

  17. Hi Adam, when I get a chance to see Mrs Brown’s Boys again, I’ll take your observations on board, if I can stop laughing long enough during the show.

  18. The last time I checked this is a free country and everyone is entitled to their opinion. YOU on one hand do not like the show and yet just because over 3 million people DO love Mrs Brown’s Boys you think that you can sit there and slag them off and make out that they have no brain for doing so. I’ve also been to see the live show recently at Nottingham and enjoyed that too. Just because you write a blog doesn’t mean that you are right!

  19. Stuart – you’re right that this is a free country. And because it’s a free country, I absolutely can slag off any show I like.

  20. I caught this for the first time a few days ago – my mouth was wide open…couldn’t believe how truly bad it was !!!!! Have got to agree with Adam !

  21. Comedy for people with no sense of humour. I watched a few minutes of this and it actually made me angry. If you like this then you deserve everything you get. My fiance loves this and thinks it hilarious; I may call off the wedding…

  22. Thank you Adam. MBB is unmitigated shite. About as funny as a terminal disease. I don’t know who it was who told Brendan O’Carroll he was funny but he isn’t. Never has been. Never will be. This is TV sitcom at its scraping the barrel worst.

  23. Adam, thank you for writing this, I completely and unreservedly agree with you. I watched Mrs Brown’s Boys and immediately developed cancer of the eyeballs and ears as a result. This ‘show’ is beyond dire, there should be a new word invented to describe this particular type of shit, its not in the slightest bit funny. Anyone who slags this show off (as any good human being should) gets classed as a toff by MBB’s fans. Well I am working class, and having a sense of humour has nothing to do with your socio/economic status, its about your brain working properly.

  24. I’ve just watched the Christmas special, 26th dec! I have never seen anything so bad in my life! Even Lenny Henry is funnier and he’s ….well just not funny! I’d love to know who at the BBC said “this is hysterical” ….er…it’s not!

  25. Adam Bowie, you took the words much more eloquently out of my mouth. It is mind-boggling how this show is in existence and must now be endured even momentarily as I scramble to change the channel.

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